Okay, so I have to acknowledge that I have/had a serious problem. In the beginning of January, I caught the first Twilight film on TV and my sister and I enjoyed a lovely half an hour trashing it, laughing hysterically at Robert Pattinson’s snarly acting and Kristen Stewart’s blue face and spastic blinking. If you’ve read this previous post of mine, you may remember that I really liked Twilight the books as a teenager and still carry a nostalgic fondness for them, despite the fact that the films—especially the first two—are laughably terrible. As I watched the movie and was faced with a marathon of them (again) I suddenly had this irrational desire to re-read the books. Oh, dear.
That night I reached into my least-used shelf (the one to which I relegate subpar reads I would still care to own) and dusted off the first Twilight. I devoured it in two days. The same happened to the sequels. Seriously, should I seek help? I decided to use the experience to figure out why the hell I liked it so much. Here’s what I learned about myself through this experience:
1. I tend to defend Bella as I’m reading, even though she has zero confidence and relies on men for her self-esteem. Okay, look. The girl drives me crazy. She bases her self-worth entirely on her looks and thinks she’s boring and normal and that no one could ever love her. She’s ridiculous, but I root for her because I want her to be proven wrong. Love yourself, girl! And please stop whining! I do think she has her good qualities, her selflessness among them, but the huge problem with reading about her is that she has no self-esteem. Literally none.
2. I’m a total sentimental sap and love the idea of this crazy, unconditional love. It’s irrational and somewhat disturbing that these two people are totally willing to kill themselves if they are ever faced with living without the other, but I’m a sucker for a love story and will always be.
3. It’s self-indulgent fiction that stirs up the fangirl in me, and that’s okay. Sometimes you have to indulge in your guilty pleasures. I used to love this series when I was a teenager, and part of this experience was to rediscover what used to make me so happy. I liked indulging in something purely for fun, and leaving aside some of the more difficult, “important” fiction for another week.
4. I really love the vampires’ backstories. I think this is something Meyer did well. You may well quibble about the sparkly vampires, but Meyer took old legends and completely reconfigured them into something unique. She also created an entire world that fit seamlessly into reality. I love that there are details about the vampires: the fact that their skin can age if they remain too still for centuries, that their eyes change color depending on their diet, that there are even vampires at all that don’t hunt humans, and that there are peacekeepers/dictators on hand to kill you if you do something wrong.
5. I really love the Quileute legends. Again, Meyer took on tired legends and morphed them into something fresh, and with the Quileutes, she also stayed true to Native American culture and traditions, no easy feat. She infused the series with magic.
6. I honestly don’t understand why Bella and Edward fell in love at all, so that’s an interesting change from when I was 15. All they do is stare at each other and tell each other “I love you.” Not how love works, bruh. Sorry.
7. I wish I could have written it better. I would have done, too. If I had had a red pen in my hand while reading, possibly half of Bella’s dialogue and most of Edward’s would have been stricken and changed.
8. I can totally understand those ‘Team Jacob’ people from 2008 now. Jacob is adorable! He’s so fun and not broody at all, even as a werewolf. If Bella had an ounce of self-respect she would have ended up with Jacob after Edward left her in the second book. But she has zero self-respect and so Jacob has to settle for Bella’s half-human immortal daughter.
9. I love Edward’s moral compass, even if he is controlling and irascible all the time. Despite the fact that Edward treats Bella somewhat problematically, he has such a profound, obsessive sense of what’s right and wrong, and he constantly puts Bella’s safety and happiness before his own. Because he’s sort of a self-loathing person, he’s cultivated these complex rules of morality that protect everyone else except himself. He kind of reminds me of a less-terrible Dimmesdale, actually. Edward is probably one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever read, once I got to thinking about him.
10. Why am I still on about this? I’ve had a strange relationship with Twilight over the years. First I loved it, then I hated it, and now I’m trying to figure out why I can’t just leave it alone. This post, from a Twilight fan site, contains screenshots from a “Twitter rant” John Green conducted about a year ago, and his defense of Twilight echoes a lot of the sentiments I’ve felt as I re-read the series:
So I’ll never again feel embarrassed for liking Twilight. Take that as you will.